Friday May 4th 2007
A HAPPY EVENING
To the parish of Our Lady and St Joseph In London N1, nearest tube: Highbury and Islington. I arrived as Father Nicholas Schofield was preaching at the evening Mass, honouring the English Martyrs. It was something of a rallying-call to us all to think about our country...then followed a Holy Hour as it was the First Friday. Glowing candles on the altar, people praying the Rosary, a good number of people with a wide range of ages and races, a sense that being a Catholic means belonging to something that goes on from century to century...
After this, the meeting at which I was to speak. The parish has regular gatherings with guest speakers, under the title of the "William Lockhart Society", Fr Lockhart being a contemporary of Newman, and a convert shortly before him, later a Rosminian priest. He worked here at O.L. and St Joseph's, before going on to St Etheldreda's, Ely Place, then newly re-acquired as a Catholic church after centuries of other use.
Theme of my talk was "Celebrating Traditional Feasts and Seasons", explaining the Christian calendar and how it all fits together (Lady Day is 9 months before Christmas, St John the Baptist's Birthday at midsummer, Lent and Easter, fasting and feasting, etc etc etc). It's the quirky bits of information that people enjoy - the Tube Station that commemorates the Annunciation (The Angel, Islington - named after a pub of that name which dates back to Medieval times and depicts the Angel greeting Mary); the flowers and herbs named after Our Lady (marigolds, rosemary); the traditions for Maundy Thursday; the origins of words and their links with one another (eg simnel cake from the Latin similia, same word as the modern Italian semolina)...etc....etc....
(Interested? There's LOTS more in my "Book of Feasts and Seasons" (send me £7.95p or equivalent in US dollars, plus say £1 for postage: Mrs J.Bogle, c/o 34 Barnard Gardens New Malden Surrey KT3 6QG).
The meeting was well-attended and the atmosphere was great: friendly, chatty, talkative, neighbourly. This must be a v. good parish. Afterwards a hugely enjoyable supper with Fr Nicholas and friends.
Home v. late, happy after a lovely evening...waiting at local bus stop, the joy rather evaporated as hordes of adolescent children streamed out, shouting, vomiting, swearing. One lad sat next to me eating chips and drinking from a can: he looked about 14, but presumably must have been older as he and his mates had clearly spent the evening in the pub. None of these young people looked at all as if they had been having a happy time. Police hover about, and there is an air of menace. No, nothing special - just a Friday night in a prosperous London suburb. Depressing.